09/12/2010 11:03AM

Midday takes tune-up for Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf


Midday won the Group 1, $445,000 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Sunday as her arch-rival Sariska refused to race for the second time in a row and was retired immediately after the race.

The dramatic events surrounding the highlight of Arc Trial Day saw Midday win at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe distance of 1 1/2 miles for the second time, but trainer Henry Cecil said afterwards that she would bypass the Arc and go directly to Churchill Downs for a defense of her title in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, which will be run at 1 3/8 miles this year.

Gasps of dismay rose form the grandstand as the recalcitrant 9-2 Sariska once again stood as still as a statue when the gates opened. Ashiyla, pacesetter for the 3-2 favorite Sarafina, shot to the lead with Midday tracking in fourth as Sarafina was rated toward the back of what had become an 11-runner field. Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Plumania grabbed a brief lead in the stretch but Tom Queally put the 5-2 Midday in front at the three-sixteenths pole. Midday had three-quarters of a length on Plumania at the wire as French Oaks winner Sarafina closed fastest of all to be third, a half-length farther back. The time for the 1 1/2 miles on soft ground was 2:32.40.

Trainer Michael Bell had worked Sariska, winner of both the English and Irish Oaks last year, repeatedly from the gate since she had refused in the Yorkshire Oaks- a race won by Midday three weeks ago, but the headstrong filly was adamant in her perverse resolve not to race. In losing for the first time in four starts, Sarafina proved she could stay a1 ½ miles and will take her place in the Arc lineup for the Aga Khan and trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre.

The Aga Khan will have a strong double hand in the Arc as Behkabad emerged the winner of the Group 2, $165,000 Prix Niel, the course and distance Arc prep for 3-year-olds. The Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Behkabad rallied to get up on the line by a head from Planteur in a repeat of the Grand Prix de Paris result in the last race run by the two on July 14.

The pair was sent off as the 9-5 co-favorites with the Elie Lellouche-trained Planteur tracking the pace of longshot Vivre Libre with Behkabad third. Planteur led with nearly a half-mile to go but Christophe Lemaire got Behkabad up just in time. Kidnapping was third but Japanese hope Victoire Pisa could only manage fourth, eight lengths behind the winner, who was clocked in 2:30.80.
Both Behkabad and Planteur should improve greatly for their efforts. Behkabad is now William Hill’s 3-1 Arc favorite with Fame and Glory at 4-1 and Planteur 6-1. Irish Champion Stakes winner Cape Blanco is 8-1 and Sarafina is 10-1.

The older horse Arc trial, the Group 2, $175,000 Prix Foy, produced a surprise as the white-hot team of John Gosden and William Buick, fresh form their Saturday St. Leger triumph with the Breeders’ Cup Turf bound Arctic Cosmos, combined to bring home Duncan, at 12-1 the longest shot in the six-runner Foy field.

Duncan led throughout but had to fight hard for the victory, which was his first since taking the listed 1 1/2-mile Buckhound Stakes at Ascot on May 9, 2009. He repelled the strong challenge of eventual third-place Timos in midstretch and found something in reserve to keep runner-up and Japanese raider Nakayama Festa safe by three-quarters of a length. Byword, trying 12 furlongs for the first time, failed to stay the distance and was fourth, while United Nations winner Chinchon trailed home last, beaten six lengths in all, perhaps discomfited by the soft going. The winning time was a pedestrian 2:35.90.

Duncan had been second to Harbinger in the Group 2 Hardwick Stakes at Royal Ascot two back on June 19, and will take his chance in the Arc, but even Gosden admitted that “that will be a different ball game.”